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Dunston UTS FC Club Legends Interview - Paul Dixon and Ian McPherson

Paul Dixon and Ian McPherson April 21

In this Club Legends interview we talk to two Gentlemen who have been involved with the club from the very early years and continue with Dunston UTS FC to this very day.

Those who have followed Dunston UTS FC from it's very inception and humble beginnings as Whickham Sports FC will be all too aware of the contributions made by Paul Dixon and Ian McPherson with both men working tirelessly behind the scenes as part of Dunston's well respected club committee to this very day.

As players they enjoyed a trophy laden career during the 70's and 80's and are regarded by many as two of the best players to have played for the club back in the early days. Off the field they have formed a friendship and bond, along with many others on the committee, which still endures to this day.

Paul Dixon, according to records, has made more appearances than any other player for Dunston, a talented defender in his days, Dicka captained the side during the clubs time in the Northern Combination League, before eventually retiring from the game as the club moved to The Wearside League in 1987.

Ian McPherson was a major signing for the club,  as Dunston continually looked to progress under the guidance of John Thompson and Billy Montague. Mac was a talented and gifted player, capable of playing left midfield or left back, he would serve the club with distinction for over a decade before eventually hanging up his boots aged 34.

As players how did you both become involved with the club?

Paul Dixon - I met Billy Montague when I was playing Sunday morning’s for the Milvain when I was about 18 or 19, he was running HMSO with John Thompson and they were looking for players.  It was convenience really, at the time I was working every other Saturday, I was a playing for Whitley Bay in The Northern League and I was there for about two months but I couldn’t always get away from work, so by playing more locally I could always manage to get away.

Ian McPherson - It was quite a long journey after playing my junior football with Redheugh Boys Club. I then went on to play for Gateshead for 5 years before leaving to join Washington in the Wearside League, which turned out to be the worst period in my football time. The highlight was losing 0-2 in the F.A Cup to Barrow and being on same pitch as Liverpool legend Ron Yeats, who was their player-manager at the time and a giant of a Man. When I left there I really can't recall how it first came about. My first encounter was when I went to a training session which was held at  Whickham’s ground, there were so many people there I thought there was no way I could get  a game here, so nothing materialized, until 1976 when I signed and started on  my journey with Whickham Sports to Dunston Mechanics, Dunston Federation Brewery and Dunston UTS.


As players you were managed by none other than living legend John Thompson, arguably one of the most mild-mannered and laid back Gentlemen you’d wish to meet, but as a manager his trophy record is outstanding. What was he like as a manager?

IMc- It takes a special type of person to be the way John is. From the moment I signed I had, and may I say still have, the utmost respect for him. As a Manager obviously he had to make decisions that didn't please everyone, but come the final whistle, win lose or draw, Thompa would be joining us in an after match drink, in my opinion it’s a legacy which has been passed down through the years and which has helped to make the club what it is today.

PD - John might be mild mannered, but when it came to a game he could be quite stern and would let you know exactly what he wanted. If you weren’t performing to his standards he’d let you know, I wouldn’t expect anything else, It’s exactly what you would look for in a manager.

As players you look at the list of achievements and trophies you won during time:

Northern Combination League - League Champions 1987, League runners up 1981, 1984, League Cup Winners 1984, 1987, League Cup runners up  1981, 1985, 1986. Heddon Homes Cup winners 1981 Durham County Cup Trophy 1982 Durham County Cup Trophy  runners up 1984, 1986, Durham County Minor Cup 1980 Durham County Minor Cup runners up 1979

Northern Amateur  League - League Champions 1978,  League Cup Winners 1978, League Cup runners up 1977, 1979 League Shield winners 1979, 1980, Gateshead Charity Cup winners 1978 and 1981

It’s been mentioned before that both the Northern Amateur League and The Northern Combination League were very strong competitions back then. Given when you both joined and retired as players, it’s an incredibly impressive trophy haul.

PD - It’s not a bad haul is it? Count them, winning or runners up in 22 competitions in 13 years, it’s not bad going never mind what standard you play in. The joke is we all had to buy larger side boards. 

IMc - Whickham Sports only trophy was runners up in The Gateshead Charity Cup, when they made a double swoop in the transfer window, signing myself and my good friend Mickey Hughes, as we have both joked on, that started it all off. 

What would you say are your proudest moments or greatest achievements as players?

IMc - On a personal note, scoring the winner to win the Durham Minor Cup was one of the main highlights and winning the league Cup final at my beloved St James’ Park. There are many more I could bore you with.

PD - My proudest moments, probably captaining Dunston to league titles and cup wins, representing the league team. Anytime we won on a Saturday and kept a clean sheet was just bliss. I played with some great players and I can honestly say that during my time with Dunston, it has been both a pleasure and honour to represent such a fantastic club.

You both had the privilege of playing alongside some excellent footballers during those early trophy laden seasons in Dunston’s history. Who were some of the great players you played alongside?

PD - How long have you got? A little fella called McPherson, Steve Hertzog, Micky Wilson, Mal Dellow, Matty Hillary, Franky Peareth, some real characters too, like Mickey Porteous, if he knocked a bad ball he would tell his foot off , unbelievable, sorry there’s just too many to mention.

IMc - First comes to mind, a centre forward called Frankie McCue, Micky Porteous, who was actually one of the delegates along with John Thompson and Alan Stott who signed Frankie on at the secret location of the Adelphi pub in Newcastle. Alan Stott was a fearless right back, Striker Paul King, Micky Wilson, the late Gerry Coyne, Malcolm Dellow, Colin Wright, Les Stokoe, Peter Quigley, just to name a few.

You both spent many seasons playing alongside one another, how would you describe one another as players back in your prime?

IMc - Paul could play anywhere along the back four, but for me his best position was sweeper and his pace helped to read the game so well. Mind along with Mickey Williamson, they were the two biggest cheaters at training.

PD - Mac was consistent, reliable, not the quickest, but you didn’t have to be when you had a good football brain and were able to read the game. He would get up and down the wing and he had that ability to pick out a great pass. You always knew what you would get from him in every game. With me covering him all the time, I always made him look good. I would say he was a solid 8 to 10 marks player in every game.

When it did eventually come to you both hanging up your boots, you both stayed on at the club and have continued to do so up until the present day. Between the pair of you that’s over ninety years of loyal service, an unbelievable commitment of your time and effort. What’s made you stay and commit so much of your life to the club?

IMc - I just knew as my legs just stopped working so to speak. When John Thompson asked me to join the committee, it was a no brainer as football has been in my blood from as far back as I can remember.

PD - I loved playing for the club, I had an unbelievable time and couldn’t have enjoyed my football experience any more than I have. When it comes to the end you think what can I do now? It was actually Tommy Cooney who asked me if I would like to join the club as a committee member. It didn’t take me long for me to say yes. It was put to the board and I was voted in. It is the best thing I did. It’s nice to put something back into the club after years of playing, If I hadn’t have joined the Committee then just think of the experiences I would have missed out on.

In your time as part of the clubs committee, you have both witnessed huge developments at the club and shared in some amazing achievements.

PD -  When you consider when it started out as HMSO in the city amateur league in the early 70’s to where we are now, it’s unbelievable. 

Coming through the leagues when I played, to the Northern League and now Northern Premier League, we have had some fantastic experiences; Bobby Scaife’s back to back double winning side, league cup wins, county cup finals, travelling around the country in the FA Vase ties, and of course Billy Irwin taking us to Wembley and actually winning the FA Vase, what a feeling, I will never experience anything like that again, forget to mention the semi-final 2nd leg, when the final whistle went I’ve never seen so many mature men burst into tears, priceless memories I will take to the grave.

This club is where it is today because of the tireless hard work from people such as Chairman Malcolm James, Billy Montague, John Thompson, Alan Stott and everyone else. It’s a team off the pitch that has to work as hard as the team on the pitch to maintain the high standards. Onwards and upwards, here’s to the next 45 years,

IMc  - I look at the progression of the club as a long ladder. Ever since the club began we have climbed rung by rung, winning the first cup then winning the league,  moving from Northern Amateur League to The Northern Combination, then on to The Wearside League, then up through the two Divisions of the Northern League and winning them all as we progressed.

I remember during the winter months, prior to getting floodlights, kicking off at 2pm before it got dark. It was the days before all-day opening for the bars but Tommy Cooney knew plenty of secret watering holes, it was normally The Queen's Head on Bottle Bank. 

Getting a stand was another huge chapter in our progress and to get Gazza to open it when he returned home the Nations hero after the 1990 World Cup, well that was another coup for the club. Getting the clubhouse was John's dream, as before we got that we huddled into our little office drinking cans of LCL, and may I say, not many came out sober.

I could go on but just a major factor in our finances was our Sportsman's dinner's.  If I can cast my mind back there weren't many clubs doing these and it was the vision of Malcolm James and Alan Stott to set the ball rolling and boy did it roll. Denis Law was our 1st speaker followed by Jack Charlton and the list went on and on. Along with the speakers there was always a comedian to follow and everyone will have their favourite, mine was Nooky Bear. 

To further our finances we had pie and pea  nights at The Fed, hosted by the brilliant former Radio Newcastle commentator Mick Lowes, we had Shay Given, the late Gary Speed, Les Ferdinand, Kevin Nolan Alan Pardew and the best one, Alan Shearer.

What have been some of your best memories and did you ever think the club would be where it is today, considering from where it all started?

IMc - There have been many highs during my time with the club, but nothing, absolutely nothing, can beat winning the FA Vase and what a weekend it was. The greatest weekend of my life. I can remember it now as if it was yesterday.

Prior to the final I was lucky enough to travel down to Wembley for a meeting where plans and protocol were set in place. We were asked if we would submit 6 songs that would be played on the day, so I asked Malcolm if I could select the tracks, which he was quite happy to let me do, so the 6 tracks were done, I got an email from Wembley saying it had to be broken into 3 parts; 2 tracks would be played before the game, 2 at half time and 2 after the final whistle. Having selected the 3 sections my wife Moya duly forwarded them on to Wembley. The next thing I got was a phone call from Moya saying that we wouldn't hear the last 2 tracks if we didn't win. Well we won and only Moya and myself knew the music, as the lads came up to the royal box “Run for home” by Lindisfarne came belting out over the Tannoy and then a local band which I followed called the Happy Cat's was next. It doesn't come any better than that. 

We travelled down on the Friday and a friend of ours David Wales organised it with Liam Brady of Arsenal to make their training facilities available for us. I'm sure Billy Irwin didn't tell the players as it would be a surprise. Anyway as Billy and Tony took the session we decided to have our own little game. There was me, Dicka, Pat McElhone, Malcolm our coach driver and Dan the Sky cameramen who downed his camera for the kick about. 

PD - As Mac said, we travelled down by coach on the Friday, arrived at the hotel, checked in and then it was a case of checking out the local watering holes.  

Next it was off to Arsenals’ training ground where the team went through a training session. Later in the afternoon the coach with all wives on arrived, that night all committee and wives went out to a restaurant for a lovely meal and drinks, a good night was had by all. On Sunday morning I and 6 others went to Wembley and into the changing room to put out all the strips, bottles, balls, just to make sure everything was perfect for the players arriving later.

Once sorted we were allowed to walk out onto the pitch, wow, what a feeling. Anyway, when 3pm came around the nerves were tingling, just thinking, we can’t get beat this afternoon, can we?

The game progressed, the ball was knocked over the top, Bully sprinted after it, it bounced nicely as the keeper came out, Bully dinked it over him. I remember sitting there, it seemed like forever, thinking, just drop in, it did, the net moved  and I was out my seat jumping around like a 5 year old, as was everyone else, the elation, the relief, I kept looking at my watch, it was like time was going backwards. In the 2nd half Bully scored a second, it’s all over, Dunston UTS FC had just gone and won the FA Vase. From HMSO to FA Vase winners, our dreams were made. The night time do wasn’t too bad either… I think.

Archive photography courtesy of Paul Dixon

Interview by Danny Whalen

Published Thursday 22nd April 2021